The community superheroes are out in full force to celebrate the Iceworm Festival on Feb. 4, 2023. File photo by Amanda Williams for The Cordova Times

The Cordova Iceworm Festival took place this year from Jan. 28 – Feb. 4, in and around the seaside town. People participated in an array of events: from a variety show and a basketball tournament to the parade and firework show, something Cordovans and visitors alike have been enjoying since 1961.
Christine Belgarde was recognized as the Citizen of the Year during the variety show. Although she was not present, the crowd honored her with a standing ovation. Acts at the show included mostly musicians and singers, piano players and a rousing choir performance.

The Miss Iceworm coronation ladies were dressed to the nines for the coronation ceremony on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Photo by Amanda Williams

The Miss Iceworm Coronation was held at the North Star Theatre in the Cordova Center on Feb. 3 to a packed house. The ladies who had been vying for the crown were cheered on by the crowd as they stood proudly with their bouquets of flowers on stage, waiting to hear the announcement.
Emma Merritt, Miss Iceworm program director, introduced the candidates and announced the winners. Morgan Saiget, a freshman, was 2nd runner up and awarded the $500 scholarship, 1st runner up and the winner of a $1000 scholarship was senior Aaliyah Tiedeman. First place and Miss Iceworm, the recipient of a $2,500 scholarship was senior Grace Collins. She told the Cordova Times she was humbled and had a blast being around her peers.

Grace Collins was crowned Miss Iceworm during the 2023 Miss Iceworm coronation ceremony on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Photo by Jacob Ranney

“It was a ton of fun. It was a special experience to be able to do all those fun activities with a really wonderful group of girls,” Collins said. “Winning is a huge honor, everyone has been very nice to meet, and I feel very loved by the community. It’s been great and I am happy.”
Merritt highlighted the candidates’ thoughtful essays entries and often wrote about what makes Cordova so special.

“We had an exceptional group of candidates this year. In their essays they frequently noted how the people of Cordova are what makes this place special,” she said. “Aaliyah and Grace have lived here their whole lives, as seniors they’ve reflected on how grateful they are to grow up in a beautiful environment with supportive people. Cordova runs through their veins.”

Merritt also shared her admiration for the candidates, and said each lady brought something unique to the table.
“All of the candidates are exemplary young women that our entire community can be proud of. They inspire us to remember that the quality of our community is dictated by the care we have for each other,” said Merritt.
The parade day came with a flurry — of snow, that is. A large gathering of spectators lined main street to watch the parade. A plethora of floats cruised down the corridor. Alaska Airlines, the Forest Service, the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department and The Cordova Times participated in the event, among other colorful and themed entries.

The famous Iceworm made an appearance during the 2023 Iceworm Festival Parade on Feb. 4, 2023. Ice worms, like Cordovans, thrive in freezing temperatures. Photo by Amanda Williams
Not all heroes wear capes, but these superheroes sure do! The heroes at the Cordova Telephone Cooperative who fight to ensure Cordovans have fast reliable internet service were masked up and ready to use their powers during the Iceworm Festival Parade on Feb. 4, 2023. Photo by Amanda Williams
Go Go Forest Rangers! The U.S. Forest Service and Cordova Ranger District must use their newfound powers to save the world. They helped save the day during the Iceworm Festival Parade on Feb. 4, 2023. Photo by Amanda Williams
Casey Pape, the first gentleman of The Cordova Times, and son Finn, also known as the News Avengers, were out saving local journalism during the Iceworm Festival Parade on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. The Cordova Times can continue covering the community and informing Cordovans thanks to our superhero’s valiant efforts. Photo by Tara Brannon of Tara Brannon Photography

The Cordova Community Choir, founded by June James, performed during the parade and at the variety show the night before, their first performance as a group. Accompanist and music extraordinaire Anita Smyke talked to the Cordova Times about the performance.

Quinn Towle, of the Towle Family Band, stole the show during the 2023 Iceworm Variety Show on Feb. 3, 2023. Photo by Jacob Ranney

“I think it’s a great outlet for the community, for all ages, and get together and make music. It’s a place where you don’t have to be really nervous about it because you’re with a group,” said Smyke. “It is a great place to come and be happy. We are hoping that we are getting more members, especially tenors.”
The survival suit competition is a popular, action-packed event for those who are quick to don the suit, and it’s a race to the finish for who can put on their suit the fastest. Deryn Carter and Nathan Wesley were at the helm this year.

Carter said it is their favorite Iceworm Festival event and that she was happy to be able to help make it happen.
“This year’s volunteers were new to the event but thankfully we had the support of those who did it for decades before us. I’m not sure I would feel the full energy of the Iceworm parade without the chill of harbor water down my spine,” Wesley said.

Taylor Kimbarow (fastest male), Teague Webber, Gunner and Jason Davis of the Eyak Ryders are a few of the courageous souls who braved the cold and ran down the dock to grab their survival suits during the 2023 Iceworm Festival. Photo by Jacob Ranney

The duo said the race feels natural to people who live along the Gulf of Alaska.
A big crew was behind the scenes of the survival suit race this year, which included Anne and Pete Schaefer, Kate Trudeau, Erin Cole, Lauren Bien, Bobby Scribner, and Ryan Casey, as well as Wesely and Carter.

The Wet Bandits (Mike Towle, Elanor Haisman, Chelsea Haisman and Krysta Williams) made survival suits look fashionable and had some fun as they jumped into the cold icy Prince William Sound during the 2023 Iceworm Festival. Photo by Jacob Ranney

Smackbox Entertainment founder Sarah Phillips thanked the bands that traveled to Cordova to end the Iceworm Festival on a rockin’ note. Four bands: Foot E. the Clown, Brother Buffalo, Wash your Hands and the Jephries, played a sold-out show at the Alaskan.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for making this show happen. My deepest gratitude goes out to each of the bands for taking time away from their jobs and families to journeys to Cordova to join our festivities and share their music with us. My wholehearted appreciation sent out for the owners and staff at the Alaskan for hosting this show and each person who attended the event,” said Phillips.

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Amanda Williams
Amanda Williams, originally from California, is a reporter, photographer and videographer for the Cordova Times. She has a long history of writing professionally for magazines and newspapers in her home state, and she also writes her own music. Williams is a decorated Navy veteran. When she isn’t covering the news, she enjoys skiing, singing, spending time with friends and family and traveling. She first came to Cordova as a VetsWork intern working for the Forest Service as a public outreach specialist on the Cordova Ranger District.